Ski park gets a lift

Pinehurst Project backers say there’s more to come


Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

Pinehurst Park, located on the North side of Eau Claire, recently reopened its ski hill. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson

Story by Glen Olson, Staff Writer

What started as a single ice rink and sledding hill is now a space for tubing, snowboarding and skiing after a recent Pinehurst Project upgrade.

Less trees on the hill means more room for sledding. But there’s also a terrain park with more freestyle skiing and snowboarding features, including two new rails donated by Dynamic Fitness and Strength, a local metal fabrication company.

All these additions came under the Pinehurst Project banner, a volunteer group whose website aims to “rebuild, reconstruct and reinvent the former ski hill located at Pinehurst to create a site where residents of the Chippewa Valley can have fun and stay active in winter.”

There is no other place to ski or snowboard within about 50 miles of Eau Claire.

Ryan Grilley, a board member for the Pinehurst Project, said giving community members an opportunity to enjoy activities in the area is the main focus for the project.

“We’re creating a place for affordable, family-friendly winter activities, without having to travel,” Grilley said.

The workers for the project volunteer their time, as do many companies that donate materials to the park, Grilley said, and they’re passionate about continuing to grow the project and improve the park.

Though there are no mechanical lifts or rope tows yet, board members plan to add these on in future drafts.

Local snowboarder Cody Matthes said even though the park is pretty bare now, it’s convenient to have a small area in the community for skiing and snowboarding.

“It’s nice to have it right in town,” Matthes said. “Otherwise you’re traveling at least an hour.”

The park also includes plans to introduce the new BikePark area to the hill, with the development of the trails happening in the spring.

This would include trails for cross-country biking, downhill, dirt jumps and skills parks. The development of that area would also be dependent on volunteer workers.

Project leaders are focusing on winter activities now but would like to expand the park to provide a place for recreation all year.

Grilley said board members are happy with volunteer support and the amount of sponsors the project has been able to generate.

Chestnut Consulting and Dynamic Fitness and Strength are two of the largest contributors. The Buzz and Mary Ann Minton Fund through the Eau Claire Community Foundation donated $11,000 to the project, and local small businesses have chipped in also.

Jeff Stevens of Chestnut Consulting said that he knew a lot of the people involved with the park and wanted to be able to help them out.

“It’s a busy time of the year, so I didn’t have time to put feet on the ground,” Stevens said. “So I went with a cash donation instead.”

He also said he has three children who enjoy skiing, so developing a ski hill with a rope tow in the area is something that he was interested in.

Grilley said the community involvement is what makes the project work, and all of the board members and volunteers are working hard to make it a reality.

“It’s been a really great pleasure and a treat,” Grilley said, “to see how involved the community has been.”